Ten Acres and Stirchley Co-operative Society Limited

Scope and Content

Records of Ten Acres and Stirchley Co-operative Society. There are 16 volumes comprising minute books and balance sheets.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ten Acres and Stirchley Co-operative Society was launched in 1875 in Birmingham. It became a household name and was popularly referred by its abbreviated name TASCOS. Its first president was John Regan and the first secretary was C J Huskisson. From contributions of 1/- a week from enthusiastic members to launch the society, members soon found a shop to rent for £12p.a and also bought the existing fittings for £20. Further fundraising enabled the society to purchase its first stock from the Co-operative Wholesale Society and the shop opened its doors on 5 June 1875.

In its early years the society was dogged with problems of running a retail business such as inexperienced managers, occasional dishonesty and hostility from other businesses in the community. The earliest financial records date from 1877 and at that time there were 102 members and an annual turnover of £1,500. In 1878 new premises were built at Stirchley Street.

Over the years the society diversified in the goods it sold to include drapery, boots,shoes,bread and animal foodstuff. Despite this the society experienced mixed results in its finances and turnover. In early 1880s it nearly collapsed and no dividends were paid. The society was experiencing managerial problems.

At the end of 1890 years of erratic growth seemed to come to an end when the society registered growth. Membership doubled and three branch stores were opened. Purpose built shops were built which could house separate units in one building. The success story continued into the 1900s. This was partly because of the prevailing economic conditions in Edwardian England and also capitalising on the momentum gathered in 1898 and1899. The society had also made managerial changes and introduced professionalism by appointing a full time paid manager in 1892 instead of relying on volunteers. The new manager and secretary, Mr McNally prepared quarterly balance sheets and reports.

After 1900 two new key officials were appointed namely Mr T P Thomas as manager and Mr E Booth as secretary. This boosted the society and it was able to pay dividends consistently between 1902-1914 and nine new branches were opened. During the Great War years 1914-18, TASCOS grew rapidly as it recruited new members and purchased farms at Kings Norton and Northfield. In 1918 a new store was opened to meet the demands of a growing population after the Austin Motor company opened a factory in the area.

After the War, years of economic instability followed and members withdrew their capital from the society. However it continued to open shops as these were planned before hand. The society ventured into green grocery trade, introduced mobile butchery shops, acquired the Empress Theatre in Bromsgrove and started confectionery and hair dressing shops. TASCOS also ventured into optical trade, opened a chemist, a new dairy service, funeral business, painting and decorating and built its own laundry.

Apart from the retail business TASCOS had set up an education fund and during the inter-war years, educational activities were strong. It had also set up youth groups and Womens' Guilds. World War Two affected TASCOS business - there were acute staffing problems as people opted for better paying work in the munitions and the society had problems in securing coal supplies. Despite this the education department managed to provide entertainment through showing films to wounded troops at Rubery Hospital.

After the War things improved. More branches were opened taking the total number to 50. Some stores were extended and modernised as building restrictions were eased. There was regional re-organisation of the co-operative movement which subsequently saw TASCOS merging with Birmingham Society in 1971.

Source: The Co-op. Birmingham and the Black Country. By Ned Williams (1993)